MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the German-built Junkers Ju 52 took to the air for the first time in 1930. The type flew for almost 90 years.

The corrugated duralumin metal skin aircraft was developed by German Aeronautical Engineer Ernst Zindel. The initial model was powered with a single engine and offered seating for 17 passengers. Extensive trials led to one of the prototypes being written off in a crash in May 1931.

This prompted designers to redevelop the aircraft with the trimotor design that became synonymous with the type. This model was designated the Ju52/3m ‘Drei motoren’ or ‘Three engines.’ The aircraft was primarily aimed at German flag-carrier Lufthansa (LH). But in 1934, Junkers began to work on a military model for the then-secret Luftwaffe.

Three Junkers Ju52/3Ms built for South African Airways (SA) fly-in formation. (Photo: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

War Years


The Luftwaffe deploy the type in every battle during World War Two, operating in some of the most hostile conditions. It also went on to serve with the Colombian, Bolivian, and Spanish Air Forces.

In a passenger role, the Ju 52 was flown by several European airlines including Air France (AF), Sabena (SN), Iberia (IB), and British European Airways (BE). The latter operated 11 ex-Luftwaffe Ju 52s that had been converted by the Royal Air Force. The type served between 1946 and 1947 on UK domestic routes before the arrival of the Douglas DC-3.

The type continued to fly well into the 1980s. Several remained airworthy until the crash of a Ju-Air Ju-52 in the Swiss Alps on August 4, 2018. One of the last flights was covered in the August 2019 edition of Airways.

Ju Air was established in 1981 using three Ju-52s used by the Swiss Air Force for more than 40 years were taken out of service. (Photo: Airways Collection)

Featured image: The Ju 52 had corrugated duralumin metal skin that strengthened the fuselage and was very unusual for the time. (Photo: Stefan Krause, Germany, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)